The Youngsters with Stars in their Eyes and the Guys Who Wish they Still Did
A NEW PGA Tour has begun just as events in Europe near their climax. It makes for very different emotions on either side of the Atlantic. In America, a host of bright new prospects set off of the great adventure, hoping to make a name for themselves in the way that Aaron Wise did earlier this year, while in Europe there is a mad scramble for the top 110 places in the Race to Dubai - fall outside that and, unless you already have an exemption, it is back to the grind of qualifying school. Oliver Wilson gave up a chance to play in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship because he knew that unless he finished in the top three then he would probably be heading back to school. Instead he chose to play on the Challenge Tour and, lo and behold, he only went and won.
Here we take a look at some of the brightest prospects on the PGA Tour and some the men who will be hoping for a big finish to the season in Europe in order to keep their dreams alive.
We start with the bright young things in America. Every season 50 golfers earn their PGA Tour cards through the Web.Com Tour and qualifying school. Here, we look at five of the brightest prospects.
Sam Burns, USA, aged 22
Burns made 12 cuts out of 16, had three top-10 finishes and a win on the Web.Com Tour. He led the way in birdies or better and ranked second in strokes gained from tee to green. He hits the ball a mile and was ranked eighth in driving distance while only coming 98th in driving accuracy. Expect to see him playing a lot of second shots from the rough. But also expect to see him reducing a lot of par fives to a drive and a shot iron. He could be a real star
Sungjae Im, South Korea, aged 20
A model of consistency, Im made 20 cuts out of 25, had eight top 10s and won twice. He qualified for the US Open, but missed the cut, and finished 42nd at the US PGA Championship. Like the South Koreans who dominate the women’s game, Im finds a lot of fairways. He finished 14th when it came to birdies per round and was ninth when it came to all-round statistics. That means he is likely to settle in very quickly. And he has a wonderful temperament
Cameron Champ, USA, age 23
How could somebody called Champ fail to succeed? He comes from California, so is used to playing with the sun on his back. He made 16 cuts out of 21 and also enjoyed five top-10 finishes and a remarkable 10 top-25 finishes, as well as enjoying a victory. He had already started five PGA Tour events, making just one cut. Champ is a huge driver of the ball and, unusually, is also one of the most accurate. He makes lots of birdies and ranked fifth in greens in regulation. If he can keep that up he will surely make a name for himself before too long. There may be some questions over his temperament.
Cameron Davis, Australia, aged 23
Davis, from Sydney, only made nine cuts, but here’s the telling statistic - he had four top 10s and finished in the top 25 in eight of those tournaments. Yet another big hitter, he finished seventh in distance from the tee, seventh in birdies and sixth in ball striking. He is likely to be inconsistent but when he is on his game he is capable of winning on any course against any opposition.
Anders Albertson, USA, age 25
A relatively late developer, but Albertson really got his act together this year, making 20 out of 23 cuts, enjoying one victory, four top 10s and a remarkable 14 top 25 finishes. He is not a big hitter, but he is accurate and he ranked third when it comes to making birdies - and that is always going to be a serious asset at this level. He is a superb iron player and has a wondrous touch around the greens.
So there you have the coming men. Now we take a look at some of the guys in Europe who will be feeling the heat over the coming weeks in Europe. We are going to single out several players, with the positions they found themselves in heading to the British Masters at Walton Heath. Remember that the top 110 will survive another year.
107: Scott Jamieson, Scotland
This seems to be an annual struggle for Jamieson, a former tournament winner who appears to have everything you could need in your bag to be a top performer. His biggest problem has been a lack of consistency. He has missed eight cuts but time and again he gets himself into a great position, only to let it slip. He has had two top 10s but unfortunately they were in low-key events.
114: Bernd Weisberger, Austria
It is not so terribly long ago that the Austrian was being spoken of as a possible major winner. He was riding high in the world rankings, playing in all the majors and the WGC events and coasting along. His victory in the 2017 Shenzen International means he will keep his card, but what on earth has happened to him? It is not quite as bad as it seems - he has been struggling with injury and hasn’t played on the European Tour since April. He will want to see the back of 2018 as quickly as possible.
115: David Horsey, England
There must surely be some mistake? Nope, Horsey is currently languishing outside the all-important top 110. This is a man with four European Tour wins to his credit but he is enduring a throughly miserable time in 2018. His biggest problem has been a failure to close out promising starts. Decent final rounds in the European Open and Dubai Desert Classic would have seen him comfortably inside the top 100. You would still bet on Horsey finding a way out though.
117: Romain Wattel, France
The Frenchman will keep his card due to his victory at the KLM in 2017, but how is it possible that such an incredibly gifted player could find himself struggling so badly? He has missed 10 cuts in 2018 and enjoyed a solitary top-10 finish, at the European Open.
121: Callum Shinkwin, England
You may recall that Shinkwin nearly won the Scottish Open in 2017. In the end he had to settle for second place, which was worth about £600,000 to him. It looked like he had arrived. But 10 missed cuts in 2018 tell a rather different story. Heading to Walton Heath he had pocketed just 293,000 euros, 119,000 of which came from his top-10 finish at the Italian Open. A return to tour school seems inevitable.
128: Matteo Manassero, Italy
Once the golden boy of the European Tour, the Italian won his first tournament in 2011 at the age of 17 and had won four times by the age of 20, including the prestigious BMW PGA Championship. He had the world at his feet. Manassero did not hit the ball terribly far but he hit it straight, was a glorious iron player and a fabulous putter. Sadly, he went in search of more distance and is now unrecognisable. This season he has missed 11 cuts, including five in a row and has a best finish of tied 20. He is still only 25 so may yet come again, but don’t bet your house on it.
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